Rudy Lavaux, Retro Editor at Cubed3: Can you start out by telling us a bit about your development team?
Collin van Ginkel, Owner of Two Tribes: Most of the people have been with Two Tribes for quite some time, so we all know each other well. We've got about ten people working on Toki Tori 2. Basically everyone at Two Tribes is working on the game in some way.
Rudy Lavaux: About the original Toki Tori on Game Boy Color, word has it that it was heavily inspired by Eggbert for the MSX, on which some of your team apparently worked originally. Can you elaborate on that?
Collin van Ginkel: Toki Tori for Game Boy Color was created on the foundation laid by Eggbert. It started out as a quick project to test the then new hardware, but ended up being our first proper release as a company. Eggbert was much rougher, though, in both content and execution. It was made when I was about 14 years old, so I don't blame myself for that!
Rudy Lavaux: The original Toki Tori was released pretty late in the life of the Game Boy Color. Did you guys ever consider transferring the project to Game Boy Advance?
Collin van Ginkel: The Game Boy Color was easy to develop for as a hobbyist developer. Basically, it was the same 10 year old Game Boy hardware but with some added bonuses. This meant you could find a lot about the device on the Internet, making it easy to start working on it.
As for our timing with the release; Game Boy Color was only supported for a few years, and since we were pretty slow back then we finished it near the end of its lifespan. Game Boy Advance has totally different hardware, so that would have been pretty difficult. It would also mean that some of our visual tricks like transparency and multilayer scrolling wouldn't stand out, since Game Boy Advance supported those out of the box.
Rudy Lavaux: The game looks highly colourful for a Game Boy title, and showcases some impressive effects on such limited hardware. Can you, for example, share with us some technical tips on how you managed to pull off parallax scrolling on a system that was not supposed to be able to handle it?
Collin van Ginkel: I have to dig deep for this, but I think I remember enough to explain it a little bit!
The multilayer scrolling is actually faked by having a 'video' of a scrolling 64x64 pixel pattern stored in ROM that's being streamed every frame. If I remember correctly, this is also where most of our ROM size went to. The rest of the game was really tiny and Nintendo didn't have any smaller cartridges, so we thought we'd just use it for that then.
Rudy Lavaux: At the time, Capcom was the publisher for the game. How did that end up being the case? Can you tell us about the process of finding a publisher for your projects, back in those days?
Collin van Ginkel: That was kind of a surreal experience. In short, we asked someone who we had never met in person or even talked to on the phone, to show the game at E3. Then he told us Capcom was interested and we freaked out! He presented us with a contract, of which we did not fully understand quite a large portion, but we signed it anyway. The rest is history.
Rudy Lavaux: How are you finding the response to the re-release of the original on Virtual Console so far?
Collin van Ginkel: Let me just say that we're happy to be able to provide the game to retro gaming fans now. It's great that the eShop allows games to be released unaltered and in full, but we don't spend much time with those games ourselves.
Rudy Lavaux: Toki Tori is a Japanese name, but you're a Dutch developer. What was your reason for choosing such a name? Toki Tori has the same two initials as "Two Tribes" as well. Coincidence?
Collin van Ginkel: You wouldn't believe how random all of this is! There is no meaning behind either Toki Tori or Two Tribes. We know Tori is bird in Japanese, but we didn't even look up what Toki meant when we thought up the name.
Rudy Lavaux: Why, out of all the possible animals out there, was a chick chosen as the main character?
Collin van Ginkel: He started out as an egg on feet actually. You may notice he hasn't evolved much from that shape, but we did remodel him completely for the WiiWare remake we did in 2008. Sometimes things just happen to turn out the way they do.
Rudy Lavaux: The Game Boy Color title is much heavier on text than any of the following incarnations. What was the reason for such a change in direction between the Game Boy Color original and all of the re-releases?
Collin van Ginkel: People do not read text, it's that simple. For Toki Tori 2 we plan on using no text whatsoever to explain the game to players. Everything is shown by examples in the game, which we think is a much nicer and more immersive way of presenting new elements to the player.
Rudy Lavaux: Speaking of the modern versions of the original Toki Tori, some improvements were brought to it like the rewind function, which was not found in the WiiWare version. Would it have been possible to release an update to the WiiWare version so that this new function could be made available on Wii as well?
Collin van Ginkel: We didn't have the time or resources to do it for the WiiWare release, and it was only added as an update to the Steam release a year or two later. WiiWare titles can't be updated easily, so we couldn't add that at a later date, unfortunately.
Rudy Lavaux: Toki Tori is a super hard game, especially in the later stages! I, for one, still can't beat all the levels yet, but I'm finding that looking for the solution without any exterior help and managing to find it is a far more satisfying experience than cheating. Who, on your team, do we owe for such brain teasing puzzles?
Collin van Ginkel: On the original Toki Tori I did most of the level designs, but for the WiiWare release and Steam version others also contributed a lot of content. I think those are my favourite levels.
Rudy Lavaux: What would you say to people like myself who can't beat the whole game? Any particular developer tips that you would be willing to share, to point a player in the right direction to finding the solution to the hardest levels on their own?
Collin van Ginkel: Don't feel bad! It's a tough game! I recently revealed to my Twitter followers that I've never actually completed all the levels in Toki Tori. Some of the levels, made by Martijn Reuvers, were just too much for me.
As for tips... it sometimes helps to play an earlier level to see if there's a trick you forgot.
Rudy Lavaux: Toki Tori 2 on Steam is currently in its beta and users are allowed to craft their own levels and submit them to you through your website. What do you think of the user-generated creations so far?
Collin van Ginkel: It's been good to see what others do with the tools we create. Since we haven't shown the entire game yet to the testers it is especially interesting to see how they approach their levels. It's usually completely different from how we are building our own.
It will be interesting to see how this changes when they get a feeling for where our designs are headed.
Rudy Lavaux: Still on the topic of user-generated content, you were questioned in your recent Twitter Q&A session about having level sharing on Wii U, and you didn't confirm it yet. Are there any possible hurdles preventing that from happening on Wii U that you would be allowed to talk about?
Collin van Ginkel: To build a level editor that's easy to use and allows easy distribution to your friends is always a lot of work. On Steam we've got our PC tools and there is Steam Workshop that allows for sharing, but on Wii U you have to alter your editor for the GamePad and find a way to share the content easily.
It's not impossible, but it takes time to implement and if we do it we want to make sure it works great.
Rudy Lavaux: On a totally different note... is SonicPicnic perhaps still involved with the music in Toki Tori 2?
Collin van Ginkel: Yes they sure are! They've written a guest blog post on the game's audio. They are working super hard to add music and atmospheric sound designs to the game right now. It's becoming something completely different from the original Toki Tori, but I think you'll love it!
Rudy Lavaux: Since the Wii U GamePad has both a touch screen and classic controls, and you confirmed that Toki Tori 2 could be played directly on the GamePad, without relying on a TV set... can we hope to find both types of input on the Wii U? (touch screen like in the Smartphone versions, and buttons like what could be played on Wii, Game Boy Color, and now on 3DS Virtual Console).
Collin van Ginkel: We're not going to use the touch screen to move Toki Tori around in Toki Tori 2. The game is so easily controlled with the sticks that it didn't make sense to add touch controls too. A lot of times you have to compromise if you've got multiple control schemes and we did not want that for Toki Tori 2.
Rudy Lavaux: Any other original creations on the way? If there are, any chance of seeing these appearing on Nintendo systems?
Collin van Ginkel: We are interested in making another game with the Toki Tori 2 engine when we complete it. There's a very versatile set of tools and technology behind the game and we think we can make something new much sooner and of higher quality if we reuse it for our next project.
Rudy Lavaux: Thank you for your answers. Any final word you would like to address to your fans?
Collin van Ginkel: You rock!